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Series Preview: Mariners (51-45) vs. Rangers (43-51)

The Mariners wrap up this homestand with a three-game series against the Rangers.

92nd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Allow us to state the obvious: The Mariners need a get-right series. Their 14-game win streak and Julio’s coming out party at the Home Run Derby pumped helium into the ballooning hopes of Seattle baseball fans, but the Astros’ arrival and Julio’s absence punctured those Good Vibes like a vindictive squirrel popping a balloon animal in the center of a panther den. Thanks to a gruesome Blue Jays-Red Sox series, the Mariners find themselves still in sole ownership of the third wild card slot but 14-game win streaks can only offer so much of a cushion. Seattle needs to reassert their competence and resurrect their offense, and what better way to do that than a three-game series against the Texas Rangers?

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Monday, July 25 | 7:10 pm
RHP Glenn Otto RHP Chris Flexen
43% 57%
Game 2 Tuesday, July 26 | 7:10 pm
RHP Dane Dunning RHP George Kirby
42% 58%
Game 3 Wednesday, July 27 | 12:40 pm
RHP Jon Gray LHP Marco Gonzales
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (8th in AL) 107 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -12 (15th) 6 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 106 (10th) 110 (12th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 103 (10th) 96 (6th) Mariners

When I (Isabelle) signed up to cover the Texas Rangers in our annual, pre-season AL West breakdowns, I had no idea that I would be resigning myself to watching far more Rangers games than anyone free from the confines of Texas ever should. But they signed ghost hunter Jon Gray, left it all on the table in the free agent market and they’re helmed by beloved former Mariner Chris Young. I was helpless to resist (Yes, I did try to bring home all manner of stray creatures as a child. Why do you ask?) and it’s been surprisingly fun. Highly recommend entertaining interest in a (harmless) divisional rival.

My Texas Rangers had a bit of a playful start to their season, capitalizing on the Mariners’ inability to string together more than a single win in a row and surging into second place in the AL West by late June. They’ve since dropped to third, seven games behind the M’s and 20 behind their cursed Texas brethren, fueled by a four-game sweep at the hands of Seattle prior to the All-Star break and losing two out of three to the worst team in the league this weekend. Despite recent performances, though, this is still a team to be wary of - particularly given the trio of Rangers pitchers slated to start this series.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien 2B R 418 0.259 101 6.4
Corey Seager SS L 401 0.240 124 1.2
Nathaniel Lowe 1B L 363 0.329 114 -1.1
Jonah Heim C S 264 0.296 127 -0.2
Adolis García RF R 387 0.304 110 3.9
Leody Taveras CF S 108 0.431 161 1.0
Kole Calhoun LF L 323 0.284 90 -0.6
Ezequiel Duran DH R 79 0.340 100 0.8
Josh H. Smith 3B L 117 0.247 77 0.2

After taking a page out of his older brother’s book, Corey Seager has banished all worries about his slow start with a truly All-Star-worthy performance in recent months. The loss of Mitch Garver should have thrown some of the team’s offensive production into minor disarray, but instead Jonah Heim has decided he won’t settle for simply being The Giant Catcher and will also be good too. Did he siphon all the Buffalo talent from the league this year? Is that why Jesse Winker has struggled so thoroughly? Adolis García continues to terrorize the division, and appears to be coaching Leody Taveras on the art of becoming an AL West Pest too. Notably absent from this lineup is former Mariner/Phillies legend Brad Miller, who is on the 10-day IL with neck spasms.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Minnesota Twins v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

RHP Glenn Otto

61 2/3 17.4% 12.6% 13.1% 44.7% 5.40 5.27
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 22.8% 92.4 2222 49 106 107
Sinker 27.5% 92.5 2179 81 85 143
Changeup 12.7% 88.0 1681 51 51 86
Curveball 13.1% 80.9 2422 122 62 96
Slider 23.9% 80.6 2573 82 104 80

From a previous series preview:

Glenn Otto was one of the headlining prospects the Rangers received in the big Joey Gallo trade last season. He racked up gaudy strikeout rates as a member of the Yankees organization and carried over those skills when he joined Texas’s farm system. He made his major league debut a month after the trade but some poor luck and bad sequencing caused his ERA to balloon to 9.26 despite a FIP that sat at a fantastic 3.17 in six starts. Despite his peripherals indicating a strong foundation, he’s struggled to follow up his debut with the same kind of success this year. The biggest issue is a walk rate that’s jumped up to 11.8% and a strikeout rate that plummeted to 19.1%.

Otto started the final game before the All-Star break against the Mariners. He went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out four. That was his second start against Seattle this year.

RHP Dane Dunning

95 2/3 19.9% 8.8% 13.8% 53.1% 4.42 4.30
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 40.6% 89.1 1976 77 81 104
Cutter 8.0% 86.0 2102 97 104 66
Changeup 22.0% 83.5 1854 97 77 83
Slider 29.2% 78.0 2064 67 110 84

From a previous series preview:

Dane Dunning has had a turbulent start to his career. He was involved in two major trades before even making his major league debut and lost a season and a half to a torn UCL. Acquired in the Lance Lynn deal prior to the 2021 season, the Rangers handled Dunning extremely carefully in his first full major league season. He averaged under five innings per start and threw more than 80 pitches in a game just four times. His approach is pretty simple: pound the zone with an average sinker and hope to get batters to chase his secondary offerings out of the zone. His slider and changeup have shown some promise but if he’s locating them off the plate so often, it becomes easier and easier for batters to just watch them go by. Four of his five pitches generate elite vertical movement, which explains how he’s able to run such a high groundball rate.

Dunning had been placed on the IL prior to the All-Star break with a minor ankle injury; the Rangers used the extra days off to allow him to heal up before the second half of the season. In his last start against the Mariners, Dunning went seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and struck out seven.

RHP Jon Gray

95 2/3 27.0% 7.5% 11.5% 43.4% 3.48 3.28
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.7% 95.8 2029 130 87 108
Changeup 9.7% 88.7 1456 69 48 107
Curveball 4.3% 77.8 2592 107
Slider 36.3% 85.2 2457 108 115 103

From a previous series preview:

A former first round draft pick of the Rockies, Jon Gray’s results in Colorado never really reached his lofty draft status. Across seven seasons in the rarified air of Coors Field, Gray posted a 4.59 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, perfectly acceptable when considering the run environment. It was all the more baffling when, upon reaching free agency, the Rockies did very little to attempt to retain his services or recoup any value from him signing elsewhere. They didn’t trade him for a haul of prospects last summer, they made no real attempt to sign him to an extension, and then didn’t attach a qualifying offer to him once the offseason had started. He wound up signing a four-year deal with the Rangers during their spending spree.

A couple of minor injuries and a stint on the COVID IL prevented Gray from really getting into a rhythm early on this season. He’s been much better since the beginning of June — he’s got a 2.34 ERA and a 2.90 FIP over the last two months — and has looked exactly like the kind of front-end rotation piece the Rangers were hoping to get when they signed him this offseason. He’s posted back-to-back shutouts in his last two starts.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 64-32 0.667 -- W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 51-45 0.531 13.0 W-W-L-L-L
Rangers 43-51 0.457 20.0 L-W-L-L-W
Angels 40-55 0.421 23.5 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 35-63 0.357 30.0 L-W-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Blue Jays 53-43 0.552 +2.0 W-W-W-W-W
Rays 52-43 0.547 +1.5 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 51-45 0.531 -- W-W-L-L-L
Guardians 48-46 0.511 2.0 W-W-W-L-L
Red Sox 48-48 0.500 3.0 L-L-L-L-L
White Sox 48-48 0.500 3.0 W-L-L-W-W
Orioles 47-48 0.495 3.5 W-L-L-W-L

Thankfully, nearly every other Wild Card contender struggled over the weekend, leaving the Mariners in sole possession of the third Wild Card spot and two games ahead of the Guardians. The Blue Jays were the only team who managed to win their weekend series, dropping 28 runs on the Red Sox on Friday and sweeping them in three games. They return to Toronto for a short two-game series against the Cardinals this week. Meanwhile, the Red Sox play host to the Guardians for four games. The Rays lost two of three to the Royals over the weekend and head to Baltimore for a four-game series against the surprisingly competent Orioles. The Astros will look to continue their hot start to the second half with a series in Oakland and the Angels will head to Kansas City to start this week.